You’ve been outright offensive for so long now

Keenan fumed silently as Melody spoke for him. It was her job, as it had been Trenton’s before the election. The problem wasn’t that she changed his words. Trenton had done that! The problem was that she changed the intentions behind those words.

He was angry, but you couldn’t tell that from the way she was speaking. From the way she spoke, he might have been confused. He might have been… apologetic. He wasn’t confused and he certainly wasn’t apologetic. He was angry and getting angrier by the moment.

He sent Bertram a look that told him what he wanted immediately. Bertram didn’t need to hear his thoughts – the way Melody could – to know what he wanted. That look said all he needed. Melody stumbled over her words and looked at him, then at Bertram – who was approaching.

“Pardon me, Lord Alaric,” Bertram said. He made a beckoning gesture at both Melody and Keenan.

Nodding, Keenan strode away from the crowd. As soon as Melody and Bertram were near, he rounded on the woman. “Do you get that I’m angry?” he hissed. “Do you – do you not sense it? Can you not tell by my tone? My phrasing?”

“Yes, highness,” Melody said, her voice equally soft, “I thought… we wouldn’t want Lord Alaric to be offended.”

“So you’ll let him offend me?” Keenan asked, his tone incredulous. “Melody! Your job is not to protect other people. Your job is to change my phrasing so that, when it’s carried on into posterity, I sound eloquent.”

Bertram nodded. “Alaric needs to know that he’s trending close to offending the Sovereign. That cannot be tolerated, Melody.”

“I’m sorry, Highness,” Melody said, bowing politely.

Keenan blinked. For the first time since she became his Voice, the bond opened up so that he could hear her thoughts. She was… frightened of him. She was terrified of speaking for him – afraid she might say the wrong thing at the wrong time. She wasn’t stupid, just over-cautious.

“Damn it, Melody,” Keenan sighed, his anger dissolving like dew on a summer day. “Just tell the man he’s pissing me off.”

Melody smiled and then turned back to Lord Alaric. Keenan slapped Bertram on the shoulder and trailed behind her. “Forgive us, Lord Alaric,” Melody said, as Keenan bowed politely. “We meant to say, ‘You have been – for some time now – offensive to us. Insinuating that our past deeds continue, hinting that we might be plotting against the High Council. We would ask that this behavior stop or we will be forced to bring your actions to the attention of the Lord Elder.”

Alaric blinked and said, “My apologies, Prince Allian.” Then, looking vaguely bemused, he made his way towards the buffet.

“Much better,” Keenan said, giving Melody a smile. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Highness,” Melody said. Maybe – just maybe – she wasn’t so bad after all.

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Something he can’t explain…

Bertram frowned at the computer screen. What did he think of these claims of hallucinations? What could he say to that? Keenan was paranoid. Everyone knew that. Rory was traumatized by his ex-wife. They all knew that too. That left Chris…

He broke off the train of thought and glanced over his shoulder. Was that the door? “Beth?” he said, stepping away from the desk to peer into the corridor. He gasped and staggered back.

“Don’t think you can run, boyo,” the man said, following him into the room.

Bertram’s heart was hammering in his chest. All his senses said this man was there! He couldn’t just see him. He could hear him – smell him! The man who’d killed his brother! “Stay back,” Bertram rasped, grabbing his side arm.

He blinked and… the man was gone. Bertram blinked again and set the weapon down. Trembling, he stepped across the room. Nothing. Not a sound. He peered out of the room and held his breath when the knob turned. It opened and he sighed in relief.

“Bertram?” Beth said, blinking. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah,” Bertram said, nodding. “I – I just have one thing to finish up. Then, I’ll come to bed.” Beth smiled at him and nodded. Bertram sighed and strode back to the computer. He typed three words. “We met tomorrow.” That was all he needed to say.

You gave love a band-aid

“Da,” Corey said, clambering into Keenan’s lap with her doll. “Lovey has an ouch.”

Keenan frown at the doll. It was just a small chip in the hard vinyl of the leg. To Corey’s eyes, it would look just like a scratch. “Well,” he said, a faint smile touching his lips. “Let’s see what I can do for that.”

He reached into one pocket and then the other. A moment later, he fished out a tiny bandaid, like you might use on a finger. He pulled the wrapper off and placed the bandaid over the doll’s wound. “There,” he said.

Corey giggled and clambered down from his lap again. “Thank you, Da,” she called, as she scampered back to her playing.

“You’re welcome,” he replied.

“What are you gonna do when the bandaid doesn’t make her better?” Perry asked, his brows furrowing. When Keenan gave him a questioning look, he said, “Love’s just a doll, Da. Dolls don’t get better from bandaids.”

“How do you know?” Keenan replied. Perry was just young enough that the question gave him pause.

Who ya gonna call? Those —-!

“Why?” Keenan growled, turning to Bertram. He shook his head. “Why do we have to go to them for help?”

“They’re the only ones who might have a hope of dealing with this problem before it gets out of hand, Keenan,” Bertram said, his tone soft and reasonable. “Try to think about what’s best for the people. Swallow your pride and ask them for help.”

Keenan cursed and slammed his fist down on the smooth wooden surface of the desk. “I hate this! They – they’ll make me plead with them and draw it all out and get pleasure out of the fact that I need their help.”

“I know that,” Bertram said, maintaining an even tone.

Sighing explosively, Keenan flopped into his chair. He grabbed his telephone and dialed a number. After a moment, he said, “Listen good, ’cause I’m only saying this once. I… need your help.” There was a pause and Keenan nodded. “We’ll be waiting for you.”

As he replaced the handset, Bertram said, “They agreed to help?”

“They want to negotiate face to face,” Keenan said, shaking his head. Then, he used a word that, while describing them perfectly in Keenan’s mind, made Bertram flush and scold him. Royalty wasn’t meant to use such coarse language. Keenan never seemed to care, even if Bertram did.

Where’s my Asian friend?

“You know,” Ezra said, as he peered around the corner at Shinichi, “the press thinks you’re Asian – or, rather, they did.”

Shinichi blinked. “Well, my name is,” he said, shrugging. He tugged at a lock of red hair and frowned. “This… belies that, however.”

Ezra nodded. “It took a full twenty minutes to make them understand that, being Shynian, there’s no way you could be Asian – it’s another world!” He sighed and added, “I finally had to tell them you changed your name when you were stationed in Japan.”

“Ah,” Shinichi said, nodding. “Thank you for that.” A faint smile touched his lips and he asked, “What do you think they’ll say when you tell them we always change our names when we come to their world?”

“I’ll cross that bridge if I come it,” Ezra said, shaking his head vigorously.

We’ve got a water fight

Ezra stood on the deck of the ship and stared off into the water. He looked up, surprised, at a sudden flurry of activity among the sailors. One stopped beside him. “You need to get below, sir,” he said, his tone stern.

Blinking, Ezra stepped away from the rail. “Why?” he asked.

“Pirates,” the sailor said, pointing at a ship that was emerging from the fog. “You need to get below, sir,” he repeated, “before they attack.”

Nodding, Ezra spun and headed for the stairs that led to the next level down. He certainly didn’t want to be on deck during a naval battle.

Watch her scream

Keenan’s brows furrowed as he watched the scene. He looked at Bertram. “Have you ever seen anything like this?” he asked over the noise.

Bertram shook his head. “Unbelievable,” he said, finally giving in and covering his ears.

Rory scowled and looked at the other two. “What got her started?” he asked. His question earned a growl from the woman in question. It also got him a vase thrown at him.

“What the…” Trenton breathed, as he entered. His brows drew together over his eyes and he waved at the woman. “Did you say something that finally pushed her over the edge, Keenan?”

“I didn’t mean to,” Keenan said, as the Royal Voice continued to rage.

Thought my mom sat on you

Jewelia made a loud noise of protest as Sera started to sit. Sera stood up quickly and looked at her, Jewelia was glaring.

“You don’t want me to sit there, sweetheart?” Sera said, frowning slightly.

“No,” Jewelia said, her tone firm. “You oughta ‘pologize, Mama! You almos’ sat on him!”

“Well,” Sera said, blinking. She looked at the empty cushion and nodded. “My apologies.”

Keenan had looked up from his book and was frowning at Jewelia. He looked at Sera, tilting his head to one side. Sera shook her head slightly. She had no idea who she’d almost sat upon.

“Who’s that, honey?” Keenan asked, looking at Jewelia.

His daughter pulled a pouty frown. “Nasin,” she said, patting the cushion beside her. She smiled. “Nasin ‘s my frien’.”

Keenan chuckled softly and looked back at his book. As Sera settled beside him, he said, “Sounds like Jewelie has an imaginary friend.”

“So it seems,” she said. She shook her head slightly and added, “It’ll be interesting, avoiding sitting on Nathan, until she decides she doesn’t need him anymore.”

Nodding, Keenan looked back at Jewelia. Ian was sitting on the other end of the couch now. Presumably, Nathan was between them. Both children were chattering softly. He wondered, then, just how imaginary Jewelia’s little friend was.

The Age of Asparagus

“He actually said that?” Chris said, grinning. He shook his head slightly and wrapped his arms around Winnie’s shoulders. “What’s it even mean?”

“When asparagus is ripe?” Winnie suggested. She chuckled softly and snuggled closer to Chris. “There’s so much about our world that he just doesn’t understand.”

“Just imagine what it would be like for us in his world,” Chris said, his voice faint.

There’s a bathroom on the right

“I need to wash my face,” Nicco said.

Nodding, Rory said, “Kitchen’s through there.” He pointed through an open doorway. When Nicco frown and blinked at him, he tilted his head to one side.

Keenan made a sound like something crashing and said, “The language barrier just fell between you.” He looked at Nicco and pointed down a side corridor. “Down there and to the right,” he added.

The elf nodded and spun away, mumbling to himself.

Rory blinked at Keenan. “He has to wash his face in… the lavatory?”

“Elvish euphemisms can me very confusing,” Keenan said, nodding. “They ‘wash their face’ the way some women might ‘powder their nose’.”

Bertram chuckled softly and said, “He’s in there wondering why on earth you’d do that in the kitchen.”

“Yeah,” Rory said, finally understanding the reason for the confusion. “Yeah, no,” he said. he rubbed his brow and sighed. “If he’d said he needed to wash his hands…”

“Yeah, but that’s a Shynian euphemism,” Keenan pointed out.

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